Joel Kinnaman, Michael Keaton
Directed by José Padilha
This Robo-reboot tries fiercely to update the satirical punch and stylistic perversity Paul Verhoeven's 1987 original. It's a futile gesture. Brazilian director José Padilha (Elite Squad, Bus 174) soldiers on stolidly, but lacks the Dutch Verheoeven's abiding sense of mischief. Go ahead, skewer American jingoism and right-wing perspectives all you want – that never gets old – but do it with a specific point of view. Padilha seems content to just go through the motions. Filling in for Peter Weller as Alex Murphy, the near dead Detroit cop reassembled from robo-parts, is Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman, of AMC's The Killing. Kinnaman has the steely gaze down pat. He's stop-and-frisk taken to the max. Fabric softener is added in the form of Alex's wife and child. Clara (Abbie Cornish) intuits that her husband's heart is still in the right place. So does scientist Dennett Norton (a superb Gary Oldman). To counteract the urge for a group hug, we have Michael Keaton as corporate evil in a suit, and Samuel L. Jackson as a Rush Limbaugh-type commentator, circa 2038. Still, the action scenes have a perfunctory PG-13 quality that flies in the face of Verhoeven's demented R-rated dazzle. For me anyway, an emo Robocop is a contradiction in terms.
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